Mobile storage systems are a practical solution to allow the storage of large volumes of material in a limited amount of space. Also known as roller racking, mobile shelving, rolling stacks and book stacks, mobile storage systems have a history that dates back over 50 years. Bruynzeel Storage Systems was one of the first companies to develop a functional mobile storage system. The idea was simple: place a series of cabinets or shelving units on a wheeled base running on rails set in the floor. The very first system had a basic push-pull operation, with a fixed handle on the end of the cabinets to slide the shelving along rails in the floor. Soon after, the mobile units were fitted with a gearwheel system, whereby handles on the end of each shelving unit could be turned to propel the shelving from left to right.

1962: First ever mobile storage system
The first ever mobile storage system was introduced in 1962, and it revolutionised the market. It was created using Bruynzeel’s standard wooden cabinets. The system saved significant amounts of floor space, as the design ensured aisles only needed to be open when being used, and was adopted widely for use in archives, museum repositories and offices.
Over time the original push-pull mobile storage system was developed and improved. In 1970 Bruynzeel added steel bases, and in 1980 the company launched the first mobile storage system manufactured entirely from steel. This was fitted with a mechanical gearwheel drive chain. The drive was operated by the distinctive rotary handles that are still a feature of manual mobile storage systems today. Subsequently a number of technical improvements were made, including the addition of locking security systems.

Manual mobile shelving systems
Contemporary mobile shelving can be moved manually or by the use of electric motors. Manual or hand cranked mobile storage systems are constructed with a rotary handle on the exterior end of a storage unit or filing cabinet. When turned, the handle operates a mechanism which propels the unit left or right, depending on a clockwise or counter-clockwise rotation of the handle. In an office, for example, several stacks of mobile cabinets for files may be accommodated in a limited space.

Although the shelving bays that sit on mobile bases come in many standard sizes, they can be mixed to create bespoke run lengths of shelving to maximise the storage space in a given room. Each shelving unit is normally mounted on a levelled trackway to eliminate gradients in the existing floor, making it possible to move heavy units with minimal effort. The track can either be countersunk into an existing or newly laid floor or be integrated into raised access flooring, allowing a smooth transition between the unit and surrounding floor level.

Electronic mobile shelving systems
Electronic mobile shelving uses small motors hidden in the base to move the unit at the touch of a button. Electronic mobile shelving has a number of significant benefits over its mechanical cousin. One-touch buttons allow access for all, including those with limited mobility. Additional safety and security features mean that electronic shelving is the system of choice in public access areas, such as university and public libraries. High-end versions connect into archiving databases, and can utilise RFID to facilitate the easy retrieval of archived items via auto open and close functions.

Double decker mobile shelving systems
The most advanced mobile storage system available for very large volumes is the double decker mobile shelving system. This giant can store up to 400% more material in a given floor space than single storey archive shelving. Despite its widespread use in warehouses and offsite stores, the double decker can also be squeezed into a constrained space, providing much needed storage for organisations based in areas with high rents and/or limited floor area.

The twinned aisles above and below the integral mezzanine floor move in tandem. The load from both levels is transferred via uprights running through the platform to ground level, doing away with the need for a bulky structural mezzanine floor, thereby saving valuable space. Before the advent of the double decker, the only way to store material in such an intensive way was by using very high stacks. High stacks have a number of access issues, not least reaching the highest shelves, which require specialist stairs or lifts. A double decker system, such as the one installed by Bruynzeel at the Library of Birmingham, allows staff to access all shelving without the need for separate ladders or stairs, improving access and ease of use.

Mobile storage systems are typically used for academic or commercial applications where a significant volume of physical archive material, filing or books are to be stored. These include medical or government records, paper-intensive offices such as the legal or accountancy professions, and public and academic libraries.

Another common use is in retail stockrooms to maximise the stock capacity, or to reduce back office storage space so that a greater proportion of the overall shop space can be used for customer retail purposes.

Capacity and cost saving advantages
A typical bank of mobile office shelving units offers close to 50% reduction of floor space or a 50% to 100% increase in storage space compared to traditional filing cabinets. The ability to concertina individual units – the so-called ‘single aisle principle’ – means space is only required between units when they are being accessed by users. Additional energy saving benefits include a reduction in lighting costs. When integrated LED lighting is added to mobile storage systems, the lights only illuminate when the aisle is in use, giving a combined energy saving of up to 97% over conventional ceiling mounted fluorescent bulbs.

New developments for mobile storage systems
Latest trends in office working, including the reduction in paper use due to digitisation, have helped broaden the use of mobile storage systems in workplaces. Mobile storage systems suitable for flexible work spaces, such as Bruynzeel’s office unit, are designed to store a wide range of material in a compact area. Systems include space for fridges, cloakroom storage, flat screen displays and lockers for personal possessions.